The Berkeley Four’s City Council, l973 – l974
May l, l973 was supposed to be a night of triumph for the Berkeley Four majority and their supporters as the newly elected City Council took office, with Henry Ramsey and Ying Lee Kelley replacing the last two Republicans, Tom McLaren and Bordon Price. But events managed to spoil things for the Council majority.
BMI vs. the World
The voters’ overwhelming passage of the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative (BMI), (it received 4,500 more votes than any Council candidate), was a mandate for action. In accordance with the initiative, it was now the Council’s responsibility to set a marijuana arrests policy. Absent a Council policy specifically allowing arrests, BMI banned the Berkeley Police from busting people for the use, possession, and cultivation of grass. Yet the police were continuing to make marijuana arrests. To pressure the Council to follow the voters’ mandate and prohibit arrests, Tom Accinelli called for a “Smoke-in” at the new City Council’s first meeting. His leaflets proclaimed “Get High with BMI.”
Thus, the Berkeley Four majority found themselves immediately confronted by an unruly, pro-marijuana crowd, some of them actually smoking the weed. Also, there was a forest of TV cameras. When Loni moved to take up the Marijuana Initiative as the first order of business and Ying seconded her motion, the crowd cheered. We finally had a team now, and neither Loni’s nor Ying’s motions were going to die for lack of a second.
The pro-BMI crowd intimidated the Council majority enough so they were willing to take up the issue first, Ramsey voting “No”. On principle, he wanted nothing taken up out of order.
City Attorney McCullum had distributed a written legal opinion, dated April 20, l973, which concluded that:
The question of arrest, by whom and how made has been preempted by the state and the Council has no legal authority to “authorize arrests” or proscribe arrests for public offenses pursuant to (the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative).
Thus, in reliance on the City Attorney’s legal opinion, City Manager Williamson and Police Chief Baker had already stated publicly that BMI would be disregarded. In response, Ying presented her first City Council motion which directed the City Manager and Police Chief to comply with the marijuana initiative. Instead, on a 5-2-2 vote, the Berkeley Four passed Sweeney’s substitute motion to affirm present policy that marijuana enforcement be the lowest priority, instruct the City Manager to seek a court test of the initiative’s validity, and “to the extent, if any, that it may withhold consent from the Berkeley Police to make arrests for violations, it withholds such consent.”
That last clause was meaningless since City Attorney McCullum had already told the Council they had no such authority and the Council majority was deferring to his opinion. Although craftily worded, the Sweeney motion amounted to officially rejecting immediate implementation of the BMI. Things were even clearer when the Council majority then voted down Ying’s motion for immediate BMI compliance. So much for the will of the people.
The crowd howled with rage, retaliating by making such a racket that the Council majority finally gave up trying to conduct the meeting, adjourning until the next night. The marijuana confrontation made the national news as another crazy Berkeley story.
The next day, May 2, l973, Loni received a call from Paul Halvonik, a brilliant, progressive Berkeley attorney, who had been General Counsel of the Northern California ACLU and was now with Public Advocates. Halvonik was a friend of Sue Hone and Henry Ramsey, both of whom he endorsed in l973. He also knew Widener. Halvonik told Loni of his strong support for BMI as city policy and his belief in its legality. When the City Attorney, Police Chief, and City Manager first began declaring BMI invalid, Halvonik wrote a letter to the Gazette, dated April 26, l973, with copies to Councilmembers. It began:
“Why Chief Baker should assume that Berkeley’s Marijuana Initiative is unconstitutional is a mystery to me and to every other lawyer familiar with the law of state pre-emption with whom I have spoken. There has never been a law like it. We have a clean slate; the question is whether the courts, as a matter of first impression, will let the people of Berkeley, who pay for the police force, set law enforcement priorities and establish a City Council check that will insure that the priorities are observed. In this era of violent crimes it should surprise no one that the citizenry is concerned with the best possible allocation of its limited law enforcement resources. I refuse to presume that the courts will ignore this reality and capriciously overrule a thoughtful and intelligent response to one of today’s most bedeviling problems.”
Now Halvonik had been lobbying the Council majority to get them to reverse their position and he informed Loni that things would be different when the Council voted again.
The May 2, l973 Council meeting started out as a replay of the previous night with the Berkeley Four confronting another hostile, pro-BMI crowd. Except, the majority immediately voted to reconsider Sweeney’s motion of May lst and it now lost with only two “Yes” votes, Sweeney and Kallgren. When Ying promptly reintroduced her resolution that the City Manager comply with the Marijuana Initiative and make no arrests without Council authorization. Hone, Widener, Ramsey, and Kallgren now voted “Yes”, so the motion passed 7-l with only Sweeney dissenting. Paul Halvonik proved to be one of the most persuasive citizen lobbyists ever. The crowd celebrated and BMI made headlines again.
The next day, Evelle Younger, California’s Republican Attorney General, made good on a previous threat and sued the City of Berkeley (Younger v. Berkeley City Council, #435827), immediately obtaining a temporary restraining order against implementation of BMI. Since City Attorney McCullum had already declared the initiative to be illegal, he obviously could not defend it. Paul Halvonik was the natural choice to represent Berkeley and the Council promptly hired him as special counsel.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Lionel Wilson (a Pat Brown appointee), now Mayor of Oakland, didn’t care for the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative or Paul Halvonik’s legal arguments in its defense. With lightning speed, and, according to Halvonik, in violation of procedural law, Judge Wilson issued a permanent injunction against BMI, dated August l, l973, on the grounds that the initiative was pre-empted by California’s anti-marijuana laws. Halvonik filed an appeal and predicted that Wilson’s decision would be overturned.
The appeal languished as Halvonik had trouble getting cooperation and payment of fees from the City Attorney’s Office. Then, following his election in November l974, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Halvonik to be California’s first State Public Defender. Halvonik turned the BMI case back over to the City Attorney’s Office which never pursued the appeal, insisting BMI was still Halvonik’s legal responsibility. The BMI’s Alameda County Superior Court file was missing when I last looked for it and the Appellate Court file shows a dismissal of the appeal for non-payment of fees, followed by a reinstatement of the case, and then nothing, about ten years of nothing.
BMI’s success obviously came in the fields of politics, entertainment, and fundraising, rather than law. In April l979, the Marijuana Initiative, complete with another “Win-a-Kilo” raffle, was repeated, using a milder text that focused on deterring arrests through intensive monitoring of the police. Again it passed.
Governor Jerry Brown appointed Paul Halvonik to the Court of Appeals and Halvonik was rumored to be in line for the California Supreme Court. He was one of Governor Brown’s most brilliant and progressive judicial appointees. Conservatives, especially the law-and-order crowd, hated him.
Halvonik had moved to Oakland. After reporting a burglary, Halvonik and his wife, attorney Deborah Hinkel (who had also worked on the BMI case), were arrested by the Oakland Police for having a large number of marijuana plants in their home. Although Deborah Hinkel was the marijuana cultivator, the authorities went after Paul Halvonik and forced him to resign from the Court of Appeals as part of a plea bargain. Halvonik is now practicing law again, but his once promising judicial career appears to be permanently ruined.
I have a very sad and ironic appreciation now for Paul Halvonik’s interest in the Berkeley Marijuana Initiative. The BMI’s policy of cultural freedom, letting people alone who grow and use marijuana, if implemented in Berkeley and then Oakland, could have saved his career.
The Battle for Rent Control, Continued
After disposing of the marijuana issue, the Council immediately faced a new crisis and another confrontation with hostile crowds demanding that the will of the voters be carried out.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Bostick (a Pat Brown appointee), ruling in the case of Birkenfeld v. the City of Berkeley, invalidated the Rent Control Charter Amendment passed in June l972. His principle reason was the lack of proof that a “serious public emergency” consisting of a severe shortage of rental housing and exorbitant rents, in fact existed at the time the charter amendment was enacted. Bostick found that no such “emergency” existed and voided the rent control law. His decision also declared the law invalid on several supplementary grounds. Although the city and the pro-rent control intervenors appealed, rent control was dead for the time being unless the City Council passed a new law.
Rent Control supporters, led by the Berkeley Tenants Organizing Committee (BTOC), confronted the Council on May l6, l973. The Berkeley Four majority refused to allow a BTOC representative to speak and voted down a Hancock/Kelley motion to let legal representatives of tenants and the Rent Board attend a Council executive session to discuss the city’s response to Bostick’s decision. The Council majority then retreated into an executive session in the City Manager’s office with the crowd screaming at them.
Unwilling, perhaps unable, to return, considering the crowd’s anger, the majority finished the Council meeting by voting on regular business items in the City Manager’s office.
The Council minority refused to attend, charging that the session was a violation of the Brown Act’s requirement for open meetings. The majority responded that the meeting was open to the press and a few other quiet public representatives who were all that would fit in the room. Legally the Council majority was probably correct, because Government Code Section 54957.9 authorizes the type of action they took in response to the crowd’s disorderly conduct.
During the next five months, the Council majority voted down three separate rent control ordinances. A BTOC emergency law was defeated 4-5 on June l2, l973 and a Hancock ordinance lost by an identical vote on July l7, l973. Bailey and Simmons joined Loni and Ying in voting “Yes” while the Council majority was united in opposition.
On July l0, l973, the Council did adopt a Ramsey proposal freezing rents for 45 days while a long-term replacement law was under consideration. Hancock, Kelley, Bailey and Simmons joined Ramsey to produce five votes for this temporary measure.
The 45 day freeze was tied to a compromise proposal being developed through negotiations between Loni’s office, the Rent Board,and Ramsey. The Rent Board officially sponsored this final attempt to offer tenants some protection and it was ultimately tailored to Ramsey’s specifications. BTOC found the law to be unacceptably weak. Bailey had now been recalled and replaced by the solidly anti-rent control Rumford. Thus, Ramsey’s support was insufficient and the Rent Board’s proposal still lost with only four votes on September l8 and again on October 30, l973.
The progressive community tried everything it could to get Mayor Widener to join with his ally Ramsey and cast the deciding vote in favor of this last ditch compromise ordinance. The Daily Cal quoted from Widener’s l97l campaign statements when he declared himself to be a supporter of rent control. As with Community Control of Police, the Mayor insisted that he supported some other hypothetical alternative law which he never brought to the Council for a vote. Meanwhile, Widener kept casting the swing vote against every rent control law offered to the Council.
Rent control supporters finally gave up on the Mayor and the Council. Widener was condemned by the ASUC Senate in a September 26, l973 resolution “for his hypocrisy and equivocation.” The Daily Californian’s October 2, l973 front page editorial, complete with a “before and after” Widener cartoon, called him:
“The Lone Obstructionist”, personally responsible for the end of rent control, a man who has “betrayed his constituency and this newspaper, which endorsed him in his l97l race, at least partly because of his stand on this issue.”
In the most publicized punishment, the Barrington Hall Co-op, where Widener had lived years ago as a student, stripped the Mayor of his co-op alumni privilege of one free meal per academic quarter.
After five months of effort, the one tangible result was a Declaration of Housing Emergency which the Council passed 5-0 on June 5, l973. Voting “Yes” were Ramsey, Bailey, Simmons, Hancock and Kelley. Since Bostick’s decision held that only the Council, not the voters, could adopt rent control, our initiative hands were tied and the sole hope was overturning Bostick on appeal.
With BMI and rent control, we were beginning to feel like President Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal statutes were declared unconstitutional, one after another, by a conservative United States Supreme Court. Our initiatives hadn’t lost at high judicial levels yet, but from early returns, the courts of the l930’s and the l970’s appeared equally unsympathetic to progressive reforms. Unlike Roosevelt, we could not count on appointing our own justices to reverse the damage.
The Midnight Special
Henry Ramsey believed that he had been elected to bring order to the City Council and its agenda. He introduced the motion to table as a parliamentary means to promptly dispose of motions from the Council minority that displeased him. But the agenda remained jammed with items that often were carried over for months from one Council meeting to another. Each agenda item carried the date it had first been introduced, so the Council’s inability to finish the agenda was graphically presented.
Ramsey’s solution, used at unpredictable times over the next year, was to keep the Council in session for as long as it took to finish the agenda, or at least come close. The Council’s rules specified adjournment at midnight, although a motion could be made to extend the meeting in order to cover specified items. Such motions to extend had always been limited to a short list of urgent matters. But now, at self-selected meetings, Ramsey would move to extend the session past midnight “to complete the agenda.” The other four members of the majority dutifully voted for Ramsey’s motion, over the minority’s heated objections.
Once the motion to extend had been adopted, Ramsey drove the Council past l a.m., 2 a.m., 3.a.m., even 4 a.m., depending on his mood, as they disposed of item after item in a state of near exhaustion. All of the reporters and nearly all spectators would leave after a while, so the Council operated in virtual secrecy, often conducting important city business at a ridiculous hour. Kathy Rhodes (now Dusky Pierce) and I would sometimes be the entire audience (except for city staff), as we stayed to keep Loni and Ying company as they protested the absurdity, but generally held their ground. Still, sooner or later, nearly everyone walked out on the Midnight Special, as we called the extended sessions.
Ying was especially outraged, and after the May 8, l973 meeting went to 5:l5 a.m., she made a motion on May l8, l973 that “prolongated Council meetings” not be used to hide the Council’s actions from the public and the press. Her proposal that a 2/3 vote, six Councilmembers, be required to extend meetings beyond midnight, was defeated by the Council majority, 4 votes “YES” to 5 votes “NO”.
The Midnight Special became a test of wills, Ramsey – the macho procedural leader of the Council majority, vs. Ying and Loni representatives of a defeated constituency. The struggle went on for many, many, months, with neither side budging. The press seemed not to care and the public not to know. The Council majority’s all-time extreme use of this tactic was the meeting of July 25-26, l974 (prior to the Council’s August vacation), which lasted from 8 p.m. to 5:58 a.m., ten hours.
While Ramsey appeared to enjoy himself at any hour, we looked for some way to stop the continued ordeal in both the public interest and our own self-interest in having a normal chance to sleep Tuesday nights.
I did the initial draft of a Daily Cal column for Ying which described and denounced the Midnight Special and asked the public to protest the Council majority’s continued use of this outrageous tactic. Ying’s column, entitled “The Midnight Special”, ran on November 2, l973, and managed to capture the awfulness that was being inflicted:
“I’m tired and I’m angry. It’s Wednesday; I’ve had practically no sleep and I’ve just finished teaching my classes.
Tuesday night’s City Council meeting went until 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.
At l:40 a.m. the Council majority passed an anti-street vendor ordinance, as requested by the Chamber of Commerce.
At 2:l5 a.m. the Council majority defeated Rent Control, as requested by the Berkeley Board of Realtors.
At 2:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. the Council majority defeated motions to schedule public hearings on important issues.
At 5:00 a.m. the Council majority made a set of exclusionary and unrepresentative appointments to the Waterfront Advisory Board.
I walked out.
And this is how I feel today-
ATTENTION: ALL BERKELEY RESIDENTS
You may not have realized it, but for the last several months you have been taken for a ride, a train ride on the Midnight Special.
What is the Midnight Special??
It’s your own local government, the Berkeley City Council, which under the direction of the current Council majority, conducts important business after midnight when there are few if any witnesses. …
As the hour gets late, many Councilmembers no longer really know what they are doing. Words get jumbled, attention lags, memory fails, yet it goes on and on, as if in a dense fog. …
Since the Midnight Special first began its run, I have contended that this practice must stop. There are alternative methods for conducting city business. Additional meetings can be held when necessary, or late night meetings can be recessed to the next morning. There is no reason to conduct business between midnight and 5 a.m. other than a desire to shield the actions of the Council from the public. …
The Midnight Special, more firmly entrenched than ever, will now be making its runs every second Tuesday. I shall continue to oppose it, not only because it is hard on me, but because it is unfair to you, the public. If the Council meeting goes until 5 a.m., I will still be there. I will have cast my votes and I will generally know what actions were taken. It is you, the concerned public, who will have been absent, and who will not be able to read about the Council’s actions because the reporters were also absent.
As the Midnight Special completes its run at 3 a.m., 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. in the morning, you will have been deprived of your basic right to know what actions were taken by your local government.
And that is just the way the Council majority wants it to be. An informed citizenry is an aroused citizenry. They prefer to keep you in the dark.”
The column ended with a request for people to call Ying’s office and let her know how they felt. She was bombarded by supportive callers who wanted to help stop the Midnight Special. The column generated an outcry against the Council majority that was finally taken up by the press. Some time later, Kallgren broke ranks and announced that he would no longer routinely vote to continue Council meetings past midnight to complete the agenda.
Since the Midnight Special pre-dated Rumford who had never been a willing participant, Kallgren’s new policy meant that Ramsey no longer could count on having five votes to continue. Although it wasn’t totally dead and still made occasional appearances, we had essentially beaten the Midnight Special and forced the Council majority to retreat.
Councilwoman Ying Lee Kelley
Ying was born in Shanghai, China and came to the United States at the age of l3 in the l930’s. She knew what it was like to live in poverty and to be the victim of racial discrimination, and it outraged her. A Berkeley resident for 20 years, Ying married John Kelley, a U.C. math professor, and they bought a home in the Berkeley hills after failing to get other houses because people would not sell to an inter-racial couple.
Ying worked as a classroom teacher in the Berkeley schools. Ying’s anger at any injustice was always immediate and vocal, quite unlike Loni who generally kept her anger from showing. The Council majority would give Ying plenty to be angry about in the next four years. Ying opened a City Council office at l7ll University Avenue, chose Julia Estrella as her administrative assistant, and added new issues and volunteers to the network which had developed around Loni.
Ying’s experiences with Bailey on the Council were positive. During the nearly four months they served together, he was well-behaved and supportive towards her. The recall threat had taken away much of Bailey’s bluster and now he and Ying were jointly the chosen targets of verbal abuse from Henry Ramsey. Meanwhile, Loni extricated herself from the seat between Bailey and Simmons and began the new term more relaxed, free at last from their whispered harassment during Council meetings.
Power Corrupts, the Council Majority in Action
The Berkeley Four’s majority displayed a permanent arrogance and contempt for opponents that always made Council meetings unpleasant. Ramsey would cross-examine speakers at public hearings, especially women, trying to intimidate them. At one meeting, Ramsey almost got into a real fight with Ken Hughes, co-author of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. Ramsey’s role was obviously to out-Bailey Bailey, and he kept it up against Ying, Loni, and the April Coalition constituency, even after the recall.
The Council majority felt unrestrained in the exercise of power. Highlights of their activities include the following:
Appointments to Boards and Commissions
On May l8, l973, the Council majority voted 5-4 to frustrate the intent of the Police Review Commission (PRC) Ordinance passed by the voters and forbid individual appointments to the nine-person body by each Councilmember. Instead, they claimed the right to control all nine seats by having the Council select every member by majority vote.
This was our first confrontation with the Council majority’s desire to monopolize appointments to boards and commissions. Here there was an issue of legal interpretation and City Attorney McCullum’s opinion supported appointment by the Council as a whole. Still, we knew that the PRC’s drafters wished to have individual appointments, although the words were just imprecise enough so that the Council majority saw a chance to grab nine seats instead of just five.
Loni and Ying made their individual appointments to the PRC. Loni selected Diane Schroerluke (now Diane Joy), who had run the ACLU’S Berkeley Police Complaint Center. Ying appointed Jim Chanin, a representative of the Police Initiative Committee, the group responsible for the PRC. Jim has gone on to a successful law practice with Oliver Jones specializing in police wrongful death and brutality suits.
Together with the Bailey and Simmons appointees, the Council minority filed a lawsuit against the majority to obtain the four PRC seats. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Spurgeon Avakian, the very liberal former Berkeley School Board member appointed by Pat Brown, ruled that the PRC ordinance specified individual appointments by each Councilmember. The City Council majority gave up and did not appeal. We had won the right to a minority of seats on the Police Review Commission. (The PRC Ordinance was amended in the April l975 election to implement this ruling and further clarify the appointment process.)
But the Council majority would not grant us representation on other boards and commissions. The new Council Appointments Committee consisted of a Sue Hone led Berkeley Four majority plus Ying. (The previous Appointments Committee had been Kallgren, Price, Hancock, and Bailey. When that Committee had three votes to recommend appointees, which wasn’t often, there was always a political balance, and Loni was able to have a fair share of appointments.) Now Sue Hone made it very clear that she would control l00% of the appointments and Ying, representing the Council minority, would have none.
The Council majority began making all the appointments, violating a tradition of minority political representation that went back to the days when the Democratic Caucus majority let the Republicans have appointments. Objections from Ying and the rest of the Council minority were ignored.
The most notorious case involved the Council majority’s refusal to re-appoint Neil Mayer to the Planning Commission. Neil, a U.C. economics Ph.D. student, had played an essential part in all our land use and rent control work, in addition to serving with distinction on the Planning Commission.
In Neil’s place, the Council appointed Paul Joannides, a student with no identifiable politics or experience. On October 4, l973, Ying resigned from the Appointments Committee in protest at being deprived of any representation, and we resolved to counterattack with an initiative.
The West Berkeley Industrial Park (WBIP)
Already this was the longest running land use battle in the city, dating back to the l950’s when the Chamber of Commerce first got the Council to re-zone residential areas of West Berkeley for eventual industrial expansion. Widener had campaigned against the WBIP in l97l and voted against continuing the project numerous times both before and after his election as Mayor. Widener’s major l97l campaign brochure, mailed city-wide, had stated:
“We must insure that the Ocean View people are not forced from their homes to provide an industrial park that they and I believe will never materialize.”
Now the Council majority, in one of their clearest payoffs to the Republicans, began to actively push the WBIP again after the project had existed on little more than inertia for two years. On October l6, l973, the Council voted 5-l-l with Widener in the majority, to commit $500,000 of city funds to guaranty bonds for the project. Ying’s motion for a public hearing was defeated. On October 29, l974, a similar 6-2-l vote approved continuation of the WBIP as planned and authorized expenditures for street widening and reconstruction geared to industrial traffic.
The Ocean View Committee, a group of West Berkeley residents who had fought for years to save their neighborhood and its homes from the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency’s bulldozers, now would also end up going the initiative route in l976.
Investments in South Africa
On May 22, l973, a black South African asked the Council to consider city withdrawal from the state Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) because of its heavy investments in South Africa and also in war related industries. For a Council with a black majority, this should have at least been worthy of further study. Instead, Loni’s motion to consider the issue was defeated (as had been similar motions in the past), the entire majority, including Widener, Ramsey, and Sweeney, voting “No”.
Loni’s July 24, l973 motion that Berkeley not invest, directly or indirectly, in companies cited by the World Council of Churches for holdings in South Africa or included among the top l00 defense contractors, was also defeated when the majority abstained.
The issue of restricting city investments in banks and other companies doing business in South Africa would be raised occasionally by the Council minority in the next several years, only to be voted down. This subject too became an initiative in l979.
The City Manager Appointment
Ever since William Hanley had resigned as City Manager in December l97l, the Council had been searching for a permanent replacement without success. Now the Council majority proposed to finally finish the job. And the majority had a new candidate, Ernie Howard, Widener’s campaign treasurer.
Executive sessions revealed that the appointment of Howard as City Manager, a Widener political crony with no known qualifications, was now a real possibility. Ying and Loni tried to figure out how to stop the Howard appointment. Such a selection clearly could not survive advance public disclosure and scrutiny, since, under Article VII, Section 27 of the Charter, the City Manager was supposed to be a neutral administrator appointed “without regard to his or her political beliefs, and solely on the basis of executive and administrative qualifications.”
While the Charter’s antiseptic standards were unrealistic, Ernie Howard couldn’t meet any standards except loyalty to Widener and adherence to the Council majority’s politics. So, using a time-tested method of communication that was also a favorite with the conservatives, the pending Ernie Howard appointment was leaked to the press. The press response was extremely unfavorable to Ernie Howard and the Council majority.
Now the majority was divided as to whether they should press on with appointing Howard. Loni and Ying thought this was an opportunity to get a competent, creative, politically neutral administrator of the type envisioned by the Charter. They believed John Taylor, City Manager of Kansas City, Missouri, was the right person for the job. This turned out to be a serious error of judgment because John Taylor failed to live up to Loni and Ying’s expectations. But at the time, January 8, l974, it appeared that we had scored a great victory when, on the Vice Mayor’s motion, Wilmont Sweeney, Sue Hone, Ed Kallgren, and Billy Rumford joined Loni in appointing John Taylor to be Berkeley’s new City Manager at (what many progressives felt was an outrageous salary of) $44,000 a year. The Ernie Howard hardliners, Widener and Ramsey, respectively voted “No” and abstained. Simmons also voted “No”, while Ying was absent.
In hindsight, we should have realized that almost any City Manager invariably becomes a political pawn of a disciplined, ruling Council majority, regardless of who initially votes to appoint the Manager. Any Manager must try to please a strong-willed Council majority, or risk being fired. The neutral administrator envisioned by the Charter is thus impossible, although the myth lingers and provides a cover for abuse of power by the Council majority through the City Manager. Conversely, if the Council is weak or has no majority, City Managers often try to usurp power and dictate to the Council as Hanley had done.
Loni and Ying should have let the Berkeley Four pick Ernie Howard and simply voted “No”, making it clear that he was their responsibility.
Instead, having helped lead the fight for John Taylor, it was much more difficult for Loni (and for Ying) to attack him when he later turned from jovial administrator into another Widener/Hone hatchet man.
Paul Williamson ended his service as Acting City Manager after two years in office. He was the best City Manager I saw in the l97l-79 period because he was honest, non-manipulative, and generally let the City Council make decisions. Williamson’s greatest weakness was reliance upon conservative policies from his department heads. As Berkeley’s first black City Manager, Paul Williamson started a trend. Two of the next three city managers also were black.
The Berkeley Four majority’s first budget was developed through relatively open deliberations. Adopted on August 28, l973,it surprisingly received 8 votes. However, their second budget, passed 6-3 on July l8, l974, was another unsatisfactory backroom version, the final numbers proposed secretly by Widener and negotiated in private among the majority members. It provided inadequate funding for community services groups, but all motions to alter it were defeated. The budget remained a creature initially of the City Manager and then ultimately of Mayor Widener, with nearly everyone else frozen out. (Passage of a contested budget does provide an almost foolproof way to identify the Council majority.)
Loni and Ying did manage to pass some of their proposals during the l973-74 period, the ones that didn’t directly threaten the Council majority’s conservative constituency. The list of successes was much shorter than in the previous two years. These winners included:
- Adopting a parental leave policy for city employees that recognized the rights of fathers, as well as mothers, to take time off from work following the birth of a child. (8/28/73) This proposal by Loni had been defeated a year earlier, proving once again that today’s outrageous notion is tomorrow’s acceptable reform.
- Opposing the Peralta Community College District’s proposed Learning Pavilion for the Hearst Strip. (June ll, l975). Residents near this vacant area above the BART tracks- land owned by BART, wanted a park, and fought for years against alternative proposals and an unsympathetic BART Board of Directors. With the support of April Coalition/BCA Councilmembers, plus legislative help from Assemblyman Bates and Lenny Goldberg, the neighborhood won and Berkeley was finally able to obtain the land and build Ohlone Park.
- Passage of a Deadbolt Lock Ordinance requiring rental units to have deadbolt locks to make burglaries much more difficult. (June 5, l973). This anti-crime measure was primarily the work of Diane Schroerluke, now Diane Joy.
- Providing notice of Board of Adjustment hearings on building permits and other development projects to tenants in addition to property owners. (June ll, l974).
- Approving pay increases in equal dollar amounts for unrepresented city employees (those with no unions), thus giving the highest percentage increases to the lowest paid workers. (June 25, l974). This was rescinded two days later by the Council majority which then voted to retain the standard equal percentage pay raise system, providing the largest dollar increases to the highest paid workers such as the City Manager and the department heads.